VR Quick Start Guide: Introduction, Questions

VR and AR - What is the difference?

VR stands for Virtual Reality, while AR means Augmented Reality. The are different but related: both are generally interactive and involve real time rendering. The definition of VR as given in the aforementioned The VR Book is “a computer-generated digital environment that can be experienced and interacted with as if that environment were real.” AR on the other hand deals with adding “digital information to the world that you can interact with in the same manner that you interact with the physical world.”(Alan B. Craig. “Understanding Augmented Reality.” Morgan Kaufman, 2013). So while in VR everything you experience is computer generated or rendered, in AR computer generated elements are overlaid on “the real world”.

Why VR?

What problem are you trying to solve with VR? There are certain situations in which using VR clearly has an added value, like training for hazardous processes. Getting a clear idea why you want to turn to VR can help guide you in your choices.

Do I need to know how to code? Do we need CS and Art?

The tools for creating VR experiences have become sophisticated enough that basic experiences can be created without the need for coding. For most projects however, some amount of coding will be involved. If you are an artist with little or no coding experience, you probably want to collaborate with someone who does.

The reverse also holds true: if you are well versed in coding but have no experience in Art or digital content creation, you probably want to work with someone who does. Technically it is possible to create a VR experience without any artistic input but it may not look so good and not be very compelling.

Which brings us to interaction. Not only do you need Art (for visual design and asset creation) and Computer Science (for coding) you also need someone who understands interaction. Rarely will all these talents be united in a single person, and no one person will be an expert in all the aspects involved in creating immersive VR experiences.

An artist can create a VR experience with little or no coding, and a programmer one using existing assets. To get started in VR this may be enough. Collaboration between artists, programmers and interaction designers is needed to create more elaborate VR works.

What aspect of VR to focus on

There are many ways to use VR, and many different aspects of VR to focus on:

  • Game Design: Gameplay Design, Visual Design
  • Visualization
  • Animation, (interactive) Storytelling
  • Documentary
  • Experiences (worlds to explore), Digital Humanities
  • Social Platforms
  • Skills Training
  • Therapy
  • Art
  • Asset Creation*

These are just some categories, and their boundaries are fluid: there is overlap between most of them: a VR application designed to teach skills can have a game aspect to it, and a game can be used for therapy.

* Focus: Asset Creation

For most applications assets need to be created. This is achieved with digital content creation tools, the same tools that are used for 3D computer animation.

Focus: Interaction Design

Most VR experiences involve some kind of interactivity. Notable exceptions are linear VR movies and animations, where the viewer is immersed in the story rather than looking at it, but has no influence on how the story unfolds. I did not include interaction design in the list above as it is an essential part of most of the categories listed. Interaction design can be a goal in itself, and developing new ways and/or tools to interact with VR is an important field of research. It is beyond the scope of this document. You need to know how VR works before you can start developing innovative interaction models.

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